Remembering Connie Livingston

By Michal Klau-Stevens

I was shocked to learn, on December 29, 2016 when I scrolled through my Facebook feed, that ICEA President Connie Livingston had died suddenly. The post from Barbara Harper caught me off-guard, and left me grappling with the discomfort of processing the loss of a person whom I liked, respected, and felt deep gratitude towards, but had never actually met. Almost all of my interactions with Connie were through social media. I can’t help but think that my life would have been richer if I’d had the opportunity to know her in person too.

Connie was one of the first people to reach out to me through LinkedIn when I started posting my blog posts there. At that time, early in my experience as a blogger, I felt mild panic each time I pushed “publish” on my computer screen, and then it seemed my words went out into the ether and disappeared into nothingness. The kind words in those messages from Connie let me know that my work didn’t disappear – and the fact that the President of ICEA took the time to reach out to connect with me to say that she appreciated my viewpoint meant the world to me. After several months of posting on LinkedIn, Connie asked me, through a private message, if I’d be interested in writing for ICEA. It took a while to make it happen, but her interest inspired me to keep writing and posting on my blog.

Soon we became friends on Facebook, and she regularly commented on my posts, both personal and birth-related. Posts from her frequently showed up on my feed, accompanied by pictures of her smiling face. She was often out with her husband or posting about her children. I remember one tantalizing string of posts she wrote about going out for waffles for breakfast with her daughter, and she and I frequently exchanged posts about guinea pigs. She liked to show off her beloved pet, and I posted her back with the antics of my son’s guinea pig too. Connie posted great birth-related information, and focused on evidence-based care and compassionate treatment for birthing women and their families. I enjoyed reading her blog posts, as I always learned some new and valuable information from her insights.

Earlier in the past year, Connie experimented with another social media platform called Blab, which allowed people to host video chats. Betsy Schwartz, a doula trainer and creator of the board game Down The Canal, was doing chats on Blab and I made of point of joining her in the chat room. Connie came online to watch several chats and interact with us, and before long she was hosting her own Blabs about birth-related topics.  I joined in for a couple of her broadcasts, and it was almost like being in the same room, but not quite. I was impressed with Connie’s bravery to quickly organize her plan and put herself out there to the public on a new, glitchy, visual platform. I was struck by the way she charged forward to seize an opportunity to share her knowledge with others and to interact with people who were interested in talking and learning about birth. That was another valuable life lesson she taught me – seize the day!

It can be hard to get a sense of a person when you only interact through social media, yet there were certain things that came through very clearly. She was a devoted wife and mother, a businesswoman, author, leader, and teacher. Knowing her made me want to work harder and do more so I could achieve like she did, and make a difference by helping others too, as she did. She was a true role model.

Reading the comments and posts after her death made me feel the loss of not knowing her in person even more deeply. So many people wrote about the influence she had in their lives. She touched many birth workers and families in her work over the years, and the posts about her warmth, her sense of humor, her compassion, her wisdom, and her caring were overwhelming.

Thinking about the fact that I won’t be seeing more posts from Connie fills me with sadness. As a former leader of a national birth advocacy organization, I can imagine how her sudden absence will send shock waves through ICEA and the larger birth community as people work to come to terms with this loss of a strong leader who was also a wonderful person. I can only guess, based on what I know from her activity on social media, that she would want her colleagues and students to carry on her work of improving the birth experiences of families through high-quality and compassionate childbirth education, birth support, and advocacy work.

I am so grateful to Connie for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the ICEA community through this blog, and I will do my best to remember the way she had confidence in me and saw value in what I have to share with others. Although much of our relationship was “virtual,” the impact she had on my life was very real. Her death is a great loss to many people and her life was an example of much impact one person can make in the world. She will be missed.

A Tribute to Connie Livingston

By Jamilla R. Walker RN, IBCLC

15826759_10100343898202328_1562172989101568866_nPurely due to the demands of life and the decision to pursue taking on another job outside the home, I’d resigned as the blog manager once 2017 began. While I anticipated writing an end-of-the-year blog for ICEA, I could never in a million years have imagined it would be on this topic.

Social media has been flooded lately with posts about how 2016 needs to end because it keeps “taking” celebrities. Every time I see that, I remember how this happens every year. Every year it’s like there’s some death tax that people can get out of paying if they die before the start of the next year. And every end of December, we strain for the new year to begin so we can be done saying goodbye to greats.

But then I got a message from Barbara Harper last night, telling me how sad she was for Connie. Our dear ICEA President had been given terrible news this past month, with a diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer for her beloved husband and best friend, Jim. If you’ve had anything to do with Connie Livingston, you know of her complete adoration for Jim. We’ve all been shocked and saddened by his illness, so I assumed that was what she spoke of and agreed that it’s terrible news. My slowness to compute what she was trying to tell me led to me making her spell it out for me. Just like they tell medical providers – it’s not real for family members unless you say the words.

“She coded and DIED?”

“Yes, honey. She died.”

My heart simultaneously lept into my throat and crashed into my stomach, leaving me breathless. I slept fitfully, waiting for the news to break on social media and then torturing myself by reading all the tributes people were posting. We all say the same thing. We’re all reeling from the unexpected devastation.

Connie Livingston was a leader in the birth industry – as a doula, childbirth educator and administrator. Her tenacity and passion for the birth community were second to none, as were her high standards for every organization she laid hands on throughout her career. And while that is impressive, that’s not what has us all walking around in a hazy cloud of grief today. It is how she interacted with all of us that has made us love her, and what is leaving a massive hole in her wake. Connie was the single most encouraging person any of us have ever met. And when I say encouraging, I don’t just mean she was good at making us feel better about life – I mean that she saw our best, our greatest potential and did everything she could to call it out of us. That is essentially what a doula does – a great doula doesn’t just empower. To empower is to give someone power. She gave everything to make each of us see what was always there inside of us. To see what power we held to be game changers, to live our fullest potential as we served the birth community and our families together. She was like this with everyone in her life, to the point that she was typically pretty surprised and disappointed when people turned out not to be what she saw in them. As her friend, I always hated how much it would bother her when someone she’d decided to love turned out to be a jerk. It didn’t happen often, as she was a fantastic judge of character, but when it did – it was hard to watch her work out.

Because when Connie decided to love someone, it was a wholehearted act. You were counted as family and she’d bear hug the breath out of you when she saw you, no matter how much time had passed. The overwhelming consensus from all the social media posts was how many women she mentored over the course of her career. And we didn’t just call her our mentor – she was our mother, our sister, our dearest friend. The other thing about being her friend is how amazing she was at connecting us all. If you talked to her about a problem you were having, she’d know someone with the talent to help you work it out. If you became interested in a certain aspect of the birthing world, she’d send you someone’s phone number having paved the way for you to have a phone chat or Skype – and God forbid you express hesitation (“but Connie, are you SURE it’s ok that I assist Barbara Harper at this conference??”), she’d shoo away your concerns and say, “oh stop, we all put our panties on one foot at a time!”

Friends, what a blessing it was to her to see the outpouring of love for her and her family these last few weeks. She may be gone, but at least she left knowing she was loved. Now it’s time for us to take all the love she gave to each of us, and pour it out on Jim, Heather and Erin and they process this tragic loss. It’s time for us to raise our peppermint mochas in the air and say goodbye to our friend, sister, mentor, mother. We love you so much, Connie. You will be forever missed.

pexels-photo-286145
If you took Connie’s doula training, then you’ll remember the candle lighting ceremony at the end. She lit the flames of so many passionate birth workers, and it’s now our turn to carry her light as we continue the work she left for us.

Responsive Feeding

Our monthly words of lactation wisdom from Donna Walls

New information from UNICEF has been released supporting responsive feeding strategies for breastfeeding and for formula feeding, including breastfeeding mothers who bottle feed expressed milk exclusively or for return to work or school.

UNICEF defines responsive breastfeeding as “ a mother responding to her baby’s cues, as well as her own desire to feed her baby. Crucially, feeding responsively recognises that feeds are not just for nutrition, but also for love, comfort and reassurance between baby and mother.”

They also stress that responsive feeding makes breastfeeding and early parenting easier, less stressful and that breastfeeding will not spoil a baby nor can you overfeed a breastfed infant.

Responsive breastfeeding is generally regarded as instinctive for mothers but societal views and cultural attitudes can often hamper a mother’s natural instincts such as fear of breastfeeding in public.  Misinformation persists regarding scheduling of feeds and the need to train newborns to sleep longer are persistent and can have a negative effect breastfeeding and milk supply.

Responsive bottle feeding is defined as “encouraging mothers to tune in to feeding cues and to hold their babies close during feeds. Offering the bottle in response to feeding cues, gently inviting the baby to take the teat, pacing the feeds and avoiding forcing the baby to finish the feed can all help to make the experience as acceptable and stress-free for the baby as possible, as well as reducing the risk of overfeeding.”

Other tips for responsive bottle feeding include keeping the bottle horizontal during the feeding to minimize gulping and overfeeding and allowing for frequent pauses that occur naturally during breastfeeding. Responsive feeding allows the baby to be “in control” of the feeding and is related to better self-regulation of food impacting the later possibility  of obesity.

Beginning with smaller amounts of formula and gradually increasing the amounts slowly over the first weeks is also a more physiologic way of mimicking the normal pattern of feeding and may help to avoid stomach upsets, fussiness and unnecessary formula switching.

Encouraging cuddling time before, during and after feedings creates an opportunity for supporting the parent/child relationship and consider feeding while skin to skin to comfort and soothe infants during feedings,

For more information on responsive feeding go to:

http://www.ajol.info/index.php/sajcn/article/viewFile/97829/87130

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3040905/

Responsive-feeding-infosheet-UNICEF-UK-Baby Friendly Initiative.pdf

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/141/3/508.full

Helping Clients Build Personal Advocacy Skills: Step Four

The Power of the Birth Community

By Michal Klau-Stevens

There is a saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Community is a powerful mechanism for learning, accessing resources, and getting physical and emotional support. It also can either serve to make us feel alienated from others, or can reinforce or enhance our beliefs about our choices and our actions. In this post, which is part of a series on personal healthcare advocacy skills, we’ll explore the value of helping our clients connect with their birth community.

What is a “birth community?” It is the group of people who are active in working with expectant families, and it can be local, national, or online. Members of the birth community may include doctors, midwives, nurses, doulas, childbirth educators, lactation experts, chiropractors, activists, advocates, parents, and others with an interest in maternity care. The birth community may be well organized, such as a birth network with a diverse membership, or may be a loosely connected group of people with a willingness to share knowledge with people who seek information. Although many of the members of the birth community may be paid professionals in the healthcare field, healthcare practices with a business stake in caring for pregnant patients do not constitute the whole community, which includes those who are outside the medical establishment as well. The birth community is the group of people with expertise and passion about birth, and they are an excellent resource for clients who seek to advocate for themselves throughout their maternity care experience.

Meeting the birth community puts our clients on a fast track to information and empowerment. Imagine trying to learn something new all on your own. It’s a process of trial and error which can be time-consuming and frustrating. Maybe you’ll be successful with it, but maybe you won’t. Maybe it will feel too hard and you’ll give up. Now imagine that you have a supportive community to help you learn. Not only do you learn more, faster, you have experienced people who point out the pitfalls and the shortcuts, and you are not alone on your journey. When we help our clients connect with the birth community, we make it easier for them to get access to the resources they require to advocate for themselves to get their needs met.

Like any community, there are some people who have similar beliefs to us, and others who hold different beliefs from us. Who we choose to spend time with can shape the actions we take and how we think and feel about ourselves. Diversity in a community is a positive thing, since different people have different needs, and one size rarely fits all. Having a variety of resources and approaches allows more people to get what they need from participating in the community. Sometimes our clients need our help to identify who in the community will create a positive effect for them. For example, I had a client, a medical doctor, who followed attachment parenting practices. With her medical peers she felt uncomfortable talking about her parenting, and she often felt judged for the choices she made. With the other parents from her child’s preschool, who mostly followed attachment parenting practices too, she felt more comfortable and accepted. The suggestion that she develop her relationships with the parents from her child’s preschool, because that’s where she found more connections to solve the challenges she faced, provided a surprisingly simple solution for her. Similarly, helping our clients connect with resources in the birth community that align with their needs and their care philosophy lays the groundwork for them to find the solutions that work for them.

You can be the gatekeeper who introduces your clients to the larger birth community:

• Offer to attend meetings of the local birth network, birth circle, or breastfeeding support group with your clients. Having a “wingman” makes checking out a new group less intimidating, and it’s a great way for you to network and learn more about the resources in your community too.

• Maintain a list of local resources to share with your clients.

• Stay connected online with national and international experts through online forums.

• Make introductions between like-minded people who can be helpful to each other.

• Be open to answering the particular needs of seekers, even if they don’t become your clients. They might need or want something different than what you are offering as a service provider, but your reputation for helping them get the care that works best for them will be spotless.

We, as care providers, comprise the birth community. It’s important that we nurture our connections to each other and that we provide the knowledge, resources, and support that newcomers to our community need. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of offering a name or a piece of information to someone who is seeking help. That outstreched hand and welcoming embrace into the birth community can set people onto the path for an empowered birth, and we know what a difference that can make.

If you missed last month’s advocacy step, you can catch up here:

https://birthperspectives.com/2016/11/16/helping-clients-build-personal-advocacy-skills-step-3/

Helping Clients Build Personal Advocacy Skills: Step 3 

Maximizing Research for Healthcare Advocacy by Michal Klau-Stevens

There is so much information available on the internet about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, but there’s one important type of information that will help your clients with their efforts to advocate for themselves with their care providers: peer-reviewed research. In this post, which is part of a series on healthcare advocacy skills, we take a look at the different types of information available to our clients, which types are most effective in helping them communicate with their doctors, midwives, and other care providers, and how we can help our clients make use of scientific research to make evidence-based healthcare decisions.

Scroll through any social media site and you’re likely to find posts about the latest discovery in healthcare. New sites report on studies that have been released, celebrities and advocates write blog posts, magazine reporters write articles, and people post about their personal experiences with one remedy or another. Maternity care advice, in particular, is everywhere. To many people, the information from a well-known news site, a magazine, and a blog post may all carry the same weight, but nothing could be further from the truth. Each step away from the original source of the data increases the addition of bias, conjecture, misunderstanding, and embellishment. And what is the original source of the data? Scientific research, and the gold standard for scientific research is the peer-reviewed study.

Peer-reviewed research has been critiqued by other professionals in the field, and been deemed worthy to publish in journals or other professional publications. It represents the highest standards of scientific inquiry. True, it has shortcomings, especially relating to maternity because of the ethics of doing research on pregnant women, but peer-reviewed research is some of the most useful information that our clients can use while advocating for themselves with medical professionals. It is the source of the evidence that creates the foundation for evidence-based practice, and is therefore hard for medical professionals to deny.

Unfortunately, peer-reviewed research rarely goes directly to the average maternity care consumer. It gets filtered through other sources before it gets to them, and those sources can be framed in a hierarchy of most reliable to least.

At the top of the hierarchy are government websites and publications, which are directed either at professionals or at consumers and detail the most up-to-date research from government agencies.

Next are sources such as brochures, websites, or pamphlets from medical, midwifery, nursing, and childbirth education professional organizations, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The American College of Nurse Midwives, and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, and ICEA. This information tends to closely adhere to the findings in the research, but it still may be presented through the lens of the mission of the organization.

Below that are advocacy organizations that focus on particular causes, such as The March of Dimes and Childbirth Connection. Advocacy organizations may raise money for research, educate and raise awareness about a topic, and/or lobby for policy changes. These two organizations have excellent reputations for adhering to the evidence, but other organizations may not be as exacting and should be vetted for accuracy.

Below that are experts, who either work in the field or synthesize the research to make it understandable for others. They may work for a company or organization with a particular agenda, or work independently, with little oversight or accountability and only their reputation and income at stake. The quality of their work can range from very accurate to wildly inaccurate. Experts might author books, appear on television shows, offer educational programs, or promote their material in other ways, and the quality of the information they teach is dependent upon their adherence, or lack of it, to the research.

Further down the list are news sites, pregnancy sites, magazines, and television shows. Reporters, who may or may not be experts in the field on which they are reporting, gather the content on these sites. They rely on experts and others who have various kinds of experiences relating to the topic being covered. With each person the information passes through, the chance for bias to enter increases. Also, these are collaborative fields, in which editors filter and refine the information, but may do so in ways that further alter what gets through to the public. More importantly, these sources are usually commercial endeavors that focus on promoting information that will be of interest to their specific audiences and will sell advertising for revenue.

At the bottom of the list are personal blogs. These are like the wild west of the internet, where anything can be stated as fact or truth, but with almost no accountability or fact-checking.

With each step down in the hierarchy, more vigilance is required from the consumer to ensure the accuracy and lack of bias in the information. Healthcare professionals are unlikely to practice “internet medicine.” They need to work from reliable sources of information that align with standard of practice. Those sources are most likely to be at the top of the hierarchy of information. Information on the higher levels is most likely to be useful in advocating with medical professionals because it comes from the most accurate and most respected sources in their field. Using scientific data also puts the patient on a more even playing field with their caregiver, making the relationship less authoritarian and more of a partnership.

How can we help our clients use scientific research to their advantage? There are a few steps we can take:

• Help them access the peer-reviewed research through sites like PUBMED, Cochrane, university library databases, and through colleagues who have access to those sources.

• Help them read through the studies, which can be daunting for someone without experience in reading scientific research.

• Find the sources at the top levels that are in a format they can understand and are most likely to be acceptable to their caregivers.

• Find the reliable sources at the mid-levels of the hierarchy by doing the research about the organizations and the experts and vetting them yourself.

• Teach them how to be more discriminating about the information they are taking in, through discussions about media literacy.

As birth workers, we have a much better understanding of the range of information that is available to our clients, have experience reading research from reliable sources, have opportunities to teach our clients how to make sense of the data they encounter, and can be a resource for them for accessing high-quality information. We can be instrumental in helping our clients maximize scientific research to advocate for their healthcare needs.

Stay tuned for Step 4 next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New AAP Guidelines on SIDS and Safe Sleep Recommendations

On October 24th, 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics released their Policy Statement entitled “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment”.

So what does this mean for childbirth educators, doulas and lactation care providers?

Here are the basic recommendations from the AAP:

  1. Breastfeeding is recommended to reduce the risk of SIDS and to enhance the health and well-being of the infant and the mother. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months (no formula,  nutritional liquids or solid foods). Newer research demonstrates that exclusive breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 70%.
  2. Skin to skin care is recommended for all mothers and newborns, regardless of feeding or delivery method…for at least an hour after birth.
  3. Room-sharing with the infant on a separate sleep surface is recommended. Keep infants in close proximity to parents.
  4. The AAP recognizes that parents may fall asleep in bed after or during feeding their infant, so remove pillows, loose blankets, loose sheets and move the bed away from walls to prevent entrapment, and follow remainder of safe sleep recommendations.
  5. Avoid nighttime feeding on couches and arm chairs which are not considered safe sleep surfaces at any time for infants.
  6. It is important that anyone who cares for the infant puts the baby to sleep on their e back. Prone sleeping (sleeping on the stomach) increases the risk of re-breathing the same air that is under the baby’s face which can increase the levels of carbon dioxide in their blood, not enough oxygen in their blood which can be potentially fatal.
  7. Creating a safe sleep surface. Recommendations from the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep (in partnership with the AAP) recommends:

“Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib covered by a fitted sheet, to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. Firm sleep surfaces with no other bedding or soft objects. Nothing soft such as pillows etc. should be placed under the baby. Appropriate surfaces can include safety approved cribs, bassinets, and portable play areas. Safety approved cribs are those that have been manufactured and sold since the requirements went into effect on June 28, 2011. They have been designed to have the spaces between the bars too small for a baby’s head to get through and get stuck. Standards for other safety approved spaces such as bassinets, portable play areas and side cars (attachment to an adult bed that provides a separate, but close safe space) have also been developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency that tracks accidents and deaths with products and helps keep babies safe from products that can be harmful or cause accidents. For information on safety standards for sleep products, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or http://www.cpsc.gov.

Other considerations for safe sleep surfaces:

  1. Do not use bumper pads in a crib.
  2. Never place baby to sleep on soft surfaces, such as on a couch or sofa, pillows, quilts, sheepskins, or blankets.
  3. When using a sling to carry a baby, make sure the baby’s face is facing up and is above the fabric completely uncovered and open to the air.
  4. Do not use a car seat, carrier, swing, or similar product as baby’s everyday sleep area.
  5. Infants should not be placed to sleep on adult beds. Portable bed railings intended to keep a child from falling off a bed should not be used for infants.
  6. Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs during pregnancy and after birth.
  7. Avoid devices marketed to reduce risk of SIDS such as monitors, wedges, devices or specific mattresses.
  8. Swaddling does not reduce the risk of SIDS and in some cases may increase the risk for overheating and SIDS.
  9. Consider offering a pacifier at nap or bed time, after breastfeeding is firmly established (no specified time frame). If not breastfed can introduce as soon as family desires.
  10. Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended to facilitate development and to minimize development of positional plagiocephaly.

Teaching points for expectant or new parents includes the importance of open discussion on infant sleeping concerns and questions. Emphasize information on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding as a strategy for SIDS risk reduction and how to create a safe sleep surface for infants in the first months of life. Encourage parents to have a frank, open conversation with the infant’s health care provider (Pediatrician or Family Physician) and any other infant care providers including family members, daycare providers or babysitters.

  • Written by Donna Walls, RN, BSN, IBCLC, ICCE, ANLC

References and Resources

http://safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/20/peds.2016-2938

http://gumc.georgetown.edu/news/safe-sleeping-and-breastfeeding-advocates-come-together-in-NAPPSS

Moon RY; Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5). Available at: www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/128/5/e1341pmid:22007003

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Institutes of Health. Safe to Sleep campaign. Available at: www.nichd.nih.gov/sts. Accessed September 21, 2016

National Infant Sleep Position Study Web site. Available at: http://slone-web2.bu.edu/ChimeNisp/Main_Nisp.asp. Accessed January 10, 2016

Highet AR, Berry AM, Bettelheim KA, Goldwater PN.. Gut microbiome in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) differs from that in healthy comparison babies and offers an explanation for the risk factor of prone position. Int J Med Microbiol. 2014;304(5–6):735–741pmid:24951305

McKenna J. Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping. Washington, DC: Platypus Media, LLC; 2007

Kendall-Tackett K, Cong Z, Hale TW.  Mother-infant sleep locations and nighttime feeding behavior: U.S. data from the Survey of Mothers’ Sleep and Fatigue. Clin Lactation. 2010;1(1):27–31

 

2016 ICEA Conference Recap

The 2016 ICEA Conference “Reaching the Highest Peaks in Evidence-based Practice” exploded in Denver October 13-15! Our conference app, Guidebook, made its debut and enabled conference attendees to have immediate access to speakers, sessions, exhibitors, advertisers and notifications of any changes right on their smart phone or device!

Located at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel, the conference opened with Jennie Joseph LM setting the stage for change in maternity care – helping us in identifying and plotting a course to incrementally eliminate inequities in care. Thursday was packed with concurrent session speakers, the annual awards presentation at the ICEA Membership Meeting plus the ICEA Members Reception hosted by the President. At the Annual Membership Meeting, participants were introduced to several special attendees including Past ICEA President Nancy Lantz, the members of the Front Range Council of Childbirth Educators of Denver, and all international registrants. The Board of Directors presented attendees with a synopsis of all of the accomplishments of ICEA this year as well as the winners of the 2016 ICEA Awards! This year’s award winners were: Connie Bach (2016 Doris Haire Lifetime Achievement Award), Kelli Barr-Lyles (Outstanding IAT), Deb Codde (President’s Award), and Dolly Wagner, Bonita Katz and Candy Mueller (2016 Meritorious Service Awards). World-renown expert Barbara Harper ended Thursday with a research-based session, “Entering the Sanctuary: The Long Term Effects of Skin to Skin”.

Providing additional education were the many exhibitors in attendance. From the innovative and new SleepBelt (www.sleepbelt.net) to CryoCell (www.cryo-cell.com), APPPAH (www.birthpsychology.com), Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net)  to Injoy Videos (www.injoyvideos.com), the exhibitors added much to the educational environment. Other exhibitors included Dunamas Center, Family Paws Parent Education, Family Way Publications, Health Children Project Inc., IBCLE, LactaMed, Mandala Journey Birth Art, Mothers Milk Bank, Perinatal Education Associates, Plumtree Baby and ThermoFisher Scientific.

Friday continued with an amazing general session by Rep. Kelly Townsend, “Maternal Health and the Transmission of Trauma” that took a look at transgenerational genome imprinting. It has opened the doorway for understanding and research! Just before the lunch hour, ICEA had a Committee Call-Out, where Directors/Committee Chairs answered questions of attendees and were able to get many ICEA members to join the growing Committee community within ICEA! Later in the day, ICEA debuted the Learning Lab for Skills sessions – two, one hour sessions where attendees learned four hands-on skills each hour! The day ended with Barbara Harper sharing “The Science and Safety of Waterbirth Around  The World”. Later that evening, many attendees were invited to share their thoughts and ideas in an Injoy Productions think tank setting.

The final day of the 2016 Conference included such ground breaking sessions as “Growing Green Families,” “What is Mindfulness? How Can it Enhance Childbirth Education,” and an “Update on Cannabis in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.” Then, all attendees were invited to attend a free certification program: the Maternal Child Health Specialist Certification offered by Jennie Joseph, LM. This program demonstrated the very core of Jennie’s efforts in reducing racial disparities in her own community of Orlando Florida, as well as the steps that anyone can take to make this work in their own community. Identification of Materno-Toxic  Area, how to become a Perinatal Safe Spot, and information about the National Perinatal Task Force was shared. What a fantastic ending to an amazing conference!

I must admit, although I am biased as President and member of the conference committee, that this was perhaps the best conference I’ve ever attended. From the customer-service oriented staff of the hotel, to the amazing food (and we all know that a great conference has great food!), to the quality and quantity of the sessions speakers, this conference had it all.

I would like to thank all of the members of the 2016 Conference Committee: Director of Conferences Kathy Bradley, Colleen Weeks, Jana McCarthy, Lisa Wilson, Jackie Thingvold, Director of Membership/Marketing Jennifer Shryock, and President-Elect Debra Tolson plus ICEA staffers Sarah Carlton, Jessica Lytle, and marketing consultant Heather Livingston for their countless hours of work this past year. This was a mighty team that produced great results!

Would you like to be involved with ICEA for any of our standing committees? Please contact our main office at info@icea.org for more information on how you can make a difference!

This conference recap brought to you by

ICEA President Connie Livingston, RN, BS, FACCE, LCCE, ICCE